With the NBA playoffs a week old, the Five-Man weave crew reflects on all the action from the first seven days of playoff basketball. The team discusses which players have impressed, which have disappointed and other storylines from the past week.
Which player has impressed you most so far during the playoffs?
Duane Watson: Paul George. Of course he's an All-Star now, but he has taken his game to a playoff level. Taking ownership of this Pacers team and doing everything - scoring, passing, rebounding, playing defense to win and making people wonder Danny (Granger) who? He's making it so that the match-up with the Heat can be just as interesting as last year.
Mitch Ward: Paul George. It's tough to argue against the NBA's Most Improved Player here. Leading the Pacers to a pair of victories over the Hawks, George has made it known that he is the best player in this series. With a triple-double in Game 1 followed by a 27 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals effort in Game 2, George looks poised to take his place in the NBA's upper crust.
Tim Chisholm: Man am I glad I waited until Saturday to answer this because that way I got to see Steph Curry come out and demand people pay attention to him as a marquee NBA point guard again on Friday night. His big shot style of play is tailor made for the Playoffs and he's having his coming out party all over the Denver Nuggets.
Will Strickland: Easy Bake to choose the Usual Suspects: LeBron, CP3, Melo, Durant and Westbrook, but I'll go unsung here. Houston Rockets' 6'1" PG Patrick Beverley, who pitched in relief of an extremely shook and now-injured Jeremy Lin to frustrate Russy to the tune of 16 points, 12 rebounds and 6 assists in his first NBA playoff start is my pick. Bevereley almost helped the 8th seed Rockets head home to Houston carrying a split with the Western Conference's top seed. If he keeps it up, I will be thoroughly impressed.
Josh Lewenberg: Paul George. Indiana's All-Star continues to evolve each time he takes to the court. The 22-year-old has impressed all season and continues to do so in the playoffs where he's carried the Pacers surprisingly effective offensive attack while setting the bar for their world-class defence. He helps you in every area of the game and hurts you in none, evident in his Game 1 triple-double performance. His transformation has been and continues to be remarkable… A true super star in the making.
Which player has been the most disappointing?
Watson: Kevin Garnett. He doesn't have it anymore. Offensively, defensively or even as an emotional leader, I was expecting to see a change once April came and nothing has happened. Jeff Green isn't ready yet and Paul Pierce can't do it on his own. It's unfortunate to see Father Time finally getting the better of the player once known affectionately as "Da Kid."
Ward: Dwight Howard. I was looking for Howard to step up and become the Alpha male for the Lakers in the Playoffs but he has just not done it. On paper, the numbers look fine (20 points and 12 rebounds), but fine isn't good enough in the playoffs. The Lakers needed him to dominate to have any chance against the Spurs but Howard just doesn't look like he has it in him. He continues to take dumb fouls, make bad decisions on double-teams and has failed to establish himself as the dominant post player in the series.
Chisholm: Brandon Jennings. The free-agent-to-be was under no pressure to win even a single game against the Heat, so he should have been loose and easy all series. Instead he's been ineffective, inefficient and has justified Milwaukee's decision to not extend him back in the fall.
Strickland: With no apologizes whatsoever to Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings and Dwight Howard, who just doesn't play smart at times and can ill-afford severe brain cramps as the Lakers fight for their playoff lives, I'd have to say D12's former AAU teammate Josh Smith. He inspires no passion in the Hawks, a team he's supposed to be leading, and looks like he cannot wait to be grossly overpaid July 1, 2013.
Lewenberg: Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. With all due respect to Brook Lopez, Brooklyn's lone All-Star, the Nets will only go as far as their guards can take them. The backcourt duo combined to shoot 57 per cent in the Nets' Game 1 win but struggled to the tune of 33 per cent in consecutive losses. Williams has been especially disappointing after turning around his season in the second half. The Bulls defence is not to be underestimated but surely Williams is too good to be neutralized by Kirk Hinrich. His success, along with Johnson's, will dictate the remainder of this series and the fate of the Nets.
What has been the biggest surprise from the first week of the playoffs?
Watson: The absurdly high scoring in some of the games. The playoffs are supposed to be about defence and change of tempo and halfcourt play, so the Warriors dropping 131 points is a bit of a misnomer. Run TMC shouldn't be walking through that door!
Ward: The strong play of Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. I didn't think either of these guys were suppoesd to be healthy enough to play at such a high level yet. Parker is back to slicing his way into the paint, taking hits and falling to the floor like his old self and Manu is lighting it up off the bench. Yes, this has been against the Lakers awful perimeter defence, but still this type of play and healthiness from Parker and Ginobili coupled with the loss of Russell Westbrook in OKC bodes very well for the Spurs going forward.
Chisholm: That Chicago is able to so stay so competitive with Rose out and Noah playing on one foot. I mean seriously, I don't know what Tom Thibodeau spiked their water with but he could make millions selling it to the league's other 29 teams.
Strickland: Faith. The Golden State Warriors' belief in Mark Jackson was never more evident than in Game 2 vs Denver in the Mile High City. Without their lone All-Star, David Lee, the other guy who is playing like he'll never get snubbed for the All Star Game again, Steph Curry, went out and did work with his small ball backcourt mates Klay Thompson and Jarrett Jack. The Warriors proceeded to go all Don Nelson Run-TMC on the Nuggets in a place they just don't lose, The Pepsi Center, ringing up 131 points with no overtime. Amazing that a first-time, second year coach in Jackson took a team with four rookies, three of whom get burn, to the playoffs in the stacked Western Conference. Mama, There Goes That Man and his team!
Lewenberg: Even from his computer, over 1,300 miles away, Kobe Bryant has outshined and overshadowed his Lakers teammates. #LetMambaTweet
The loss of Russell Westbrook does what to the Thunder's title hopes?
Ward: It certainly doesn't help them, but I'm not ready to jump ship on the Thunder just yet. Kevin Durant is still the second best basketball player ON THE PLANET and I can see him going for 35 points a game for the remainder of the playoffs. Players like Serge Ibaka, Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson will also need to step up but I still see this team coming out of the West. Beating the Heat was always going to be hard, now it's a little harder.
Strickland: The playoffs are not as fun without Russy, be it the curious choices in haberdashery or his manically athletic forays on the court. It's a bad break for OKC fans or people who just hate the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. If ever there was a time for All-NBA performer Kevin Durant to overcome being sick and tired of being second, the time is now.
Lewenberg: It hurts, without a doubt. Westbrook has never missed a game in his five-year NBA career (or in college/high school for that matter), so there's no telling how this Thunder team will respond without him. Although the Western Conference has certainly become more interesting with this devastating injury, you shouldn't count OKC out just yet. This is far from a two-man team. They're deep, balanced, well coached and feature a true super star in Kevin Durant. Although a return to the finals is within reach, despite expected encounters with the Clippers and Spurs, their title aspirations can be put to bed for the time being. They'll need all hands on deck to take out the Heat.
Should the Lakers just shut an injured Steve Nash down even if he wants to play Game 4?
Watson: Yes, he's had a rough season with numerous injuries and even if he turned in one of his MVP-like performances, it wouldn't be enough to beat the Spurs. He's getting older and despite how well he takes care of his body, he can't afford to have any lingering issues going into next year's make or break season. Intertwined with that is Steph Curry's ability to display that he is a prime-time playoff performer.
Ward: Yes. This series is all but over and there is no sense further aggravating Nash's laundry list of issues even if we wants to gut out one more game. Nash should swing an under the table deal with his old trainers in Phoenix and hope they can help rejuvenate his aching, aging body over the summer and turn the page on this nightmare of a season.
Chisholm: Yes! Please, for the love of all that is good in the world YES!
Strickland: These are Mike D'Antoni's Lakers aka "Mr. Ride 'Em Like Freakin' Secretariat" (Sorry, Jeremy Lin and Kobe)! It helps Steve Nash to craft a softer, more somber narrative to his very disappointing season if he stays on the court. I wouldn't fault him if he decided to retire now. Father Time is undefeated...
Lewenberg: If it's up to Nash he'll continue to battle – that's just who he is – but like Kobe, the mileage has finally caught up with him and his body appears to have shut down. It's difficult, even painful to watch as an understandably frustrated Nash hobbles about, struggling to do the things he used to master with relative ease. Ultimately the Lakers are short on options in the backcourt and Nash – a shell of his former, healthy self – is a better option than their alternatives (Chris Duhon, Darius Morris). If he can go he will but he shouldn't risk further damage to salvage an inevitably lost season.
Do you like the re-hire of Mike Brown in Cleveland?
Watson: I'm indifferent on it. I actually thought he would end up in Atlanta after they release Larry Drew, as Danny Ferry hired him in Cleveland. But Brown returning to Cleveland after being fired to "appease" LeBron James despite winning 61 games is asinine, particularly as they weren't sure if James was staying or not. We all know how that turned out.
Ward: Sure. Mike Brown is a good coach, especially on the defensive side of the ball and he should be a positive influence on the Cavaliers' young core. Perhaps more importantly, the decision to bring back Brown does not damage the prospect of a LeBron James return to Cleveland like some people would have you believe. And make no mistake, that is Cleveland's end game. Lebron's decision will have a lot more to do with how things change in Miami and what the Cavs do roster wise between now and the summer of 2014 than the re-hiring of Brown.
Chisholm: I'm unmoved. Brown has proven to be a strong regular season coach but his lack of creativity has held his team back in the Playoffs. A five-year deal is A LOT for a head coach, especially for a head coach of a young team, but if he can get those kids to play some defence they could be a scary opponent in the East.
Strickland: Recycling is good for the planet... except in Cleveland. If The #ComicSans Champ Dan Gilbert thought there was any chance of keeping Kyrie Irving on this team once his contract is done or luring LeBron James back to the Mistake On The Lake, that died the minute Chik Fil-A Mike signed the dotted. Hello, Lottery Forever!
Lewenberg: Dan Gilbert recently acknowledged his mistake in firing Brown. Prediction: The Cavs' owner is forced to make that same admission about the re-hire before Brown's new five-year deal is up. This will be a true test of Brown's worth as a coach. He'll have his work cut out for him with these young Cavs and their abysmal defence. LeBron's not walking through that door… or is he?
The Five-Man Weave is made up of TSN.ca Raptors blogger Tim Chisholm ( @timpchisholm), TSN Radio 1050 Raptors reporter Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050), Duane Watson (@sweetswatson) and Will Strickland (@WallStrizzle1) from TSN Radio 1050's 1-on-1 with Will and Duane, and TSN.ca NBA Editor Mitch Ward (@jmitchw).